Tomorrow I’m booked to talk to our Primary School children. Its world of work week and they are inviting people into the school to talk about their work and profession.
I was struck at the Ascension by the emphasis the feast gives to the mission of the church. In fact the reading that day gave an ideal job description of what it means to be a priest and disciple of Christ. As Jesus left his disciples to return to the Father he presents them with a long list tasks and duties: not least to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good news. No challenge there then!
For us the Ascension and Pentecost marks the moment when Christ hands over to his disciples the message and mission of salvation. No longer are they merely observers in the Christian drama. Now they have a starring role.
For something precious has been entrusted to them, something beyond price. Christ has placed into their frail hands the means by which the world is to be saved.
But we too share in the mission of the church, Christ has entrusted us with the precious gift of faith and salvation and it is for us to bear witness to him in our lives, our families and world.
Of course Jesus does just leave us to get on with it. He doesn’t leave us alone. He gives us the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God who breathes new life into our souls, our church and world. And we have too Christ’s own abiding presence in the Eucharist and sacraments.
So that priest and people, you and me can proclaim the Gospel with our lives. And that’s important to believe and take on board that we can contribute to the evangelization of the Church and through that witness foster vocations. Only when we are doing our job properly as priests, parents, teachers and parishioners will our young people respond to God’s call.
Pope Francis recognizes this desperate need for a new evangelization in which everyone is called to be a part. His apostolic exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel is the most challenging of documents. He pulls no punches and doesn’t spare our blushes: too many of us he says look as if we have just returned form a funeral he warns. Too many of us are locked behind church doors. Too many of us are into maintenance and not into outreach.
So how do we change? How do we become joyful messengers of the Gospel. We need to take up the challenge, face the truth, seek that conversion of life Christ always calls us to. But in the end it is God’s work and we accomplish nothing without him.
And these sacred days leading to Pentecost as we prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit remind us that we possess all we need already. Like the treasure is hidden in the field and we have had it along!
In St John’s Gospel as the Lord prepared to leave his disciples he told I do not call you servants anymore I call you friends. We are each of us called into the close intimate love and friendship with God and Christ each and every moment of our lives. We are called to grow and develop in that love and friendship.
It is most powerfully express of course in the Eucharist when Jesus gives himself to us truly and really in the mass. Also at the mass Christ speaks to us in his word of scripture; so much so that in word and sacrament we are united to the Lord, who nourishes us and lavishes his love and intimate friendship on us.
If we are friends with Christ then that friendship bring joy, happiness, fulfillment and meaning to our lives. It is light that shines out in our world, a light that cannot be hidden. As St John Chrysostom says:
“It is easier for the sun not to give heat, to stop shinning than for the Christian not to be filled with light.” We are filled with the light of Christ in so many different ways; in our care and love for our families, in our devotedness to our spouses and parents, our kindness and love of neighbour, our defense of the poor, the unborn and the elderly. Our light does shine in the world and the breath of the Holy Spirit fans that light into a flame. A flame of faith, and hope and charity.
God’s Holy Spirit renews all things, makes all things new and replenishes all that has grown old or tired. May the Holy Spirit who is Christ’s gift to the church allow the light of our faith to burn brightly with the joy, love and friendship of Christ.
In bringing the Joy of the Gospel to others, in inspiring our young people to answer God’s call. And we need to remember we attract and inspire them only with love, only with friendship, only with that full and complete joy that can be found in Christ only. Don’t be afraid he tells us in the Gospel today I have conquered the world.
Perhaps the beautiful payer of Cardinal Newman which Mother Theresa asked her sisters to say everyday allow us to see how we can bring the Joy of the Gospel to all that we meet.
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me
That every soul I come in contact with
May feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Jesus will be all from You; none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example,
By the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.